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Bowers Wilkins Formation Wedge

The venerable Hi-Fi brand Bowers & Wilkins was a latecomer to the wireless speaker market: its first line of multi-room devices, called Formation, was unveiled only in April 2019. Among the five speakers in the Formation line, the standalone wireless Wedge, launched at $899, was officially introduced as the successor to Bowers & Wilkins iconic Zeppelin Wireless. The honeycomb-like speaker houses a three-way driver configuration with two 25 mm double-dome, decoupled aluminum tweeters; two 90 mm FST midrange drivers; and one 150 mm 80W subwoofer. The Wedge features the manufacturers specially-developed audio technology, Formation Wireless, and is compatible with Apples AirPlay 2 protocol, Spotify Connect, aptX HD Bluetooth, andRoon no, not the fictional Star Wars planet, but the high-res music service. The speaker, which supports 24-bits/96 kHz audio, promises high resolution sound, powerful bass, and true room-filling stereo sound.

We put the Formation Wedge through our rigorous DXOMARK Speaker test suite. In this review, we will break down how it fared at audio playback in a variety of tests and several common use cases.

About DXOMARK Wireless Speaker tests:For scoring and analysis in our wireless speaker reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests and undertake more than 20 hours of perceptual evaluation under controlled lab conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate playback using only the devices built-in hardware. (For more details about our Speaker protocol,click here.)The Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge falls into thePremium categoryof devices in the DXOMARK Speaker rankings.

Pleasant tuning, both bright and with deep low-end

Lowest total harmonic distortion and noise measured to date

Good spatial performance when listening to music and when watching movies

Non-neutral tonal balance, which also strongly depends on volume.

The device is mainly front- and side-firing, impairing scores in gathering, party, and outdoor scenarios.

Midrange is impaired by slight hissing that can occasionally become somewhat aggressive.

Achieving a DXOMARK Speaker score of 160, the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge is the current top score holder both in the premium category and across our Wireless Speaker protocol database.

The speaker delivers sharp attack, great sound field wideness, precise localizability of sound sources, good loudness at elevated volumes, and excellent management of sonic artifacts all attributes that make it particularly suited for hosting parties, watching movies, relaxing at home, and listening to music or podcasts in the bathroom or in the kitchen. Its signature tonal balance bright and precise, with deep low-end extension and slightly recessed bass and low-mids is anything but neutral; its appreciation is purely a matter of personal taste.

Since nobodys perfect, the Formation Wedge still has (a little) room for improvement. To begin with, the speakers timbre performance highly depends on the listening volume: indeed, from minimum to maximum volume, the tonal balance shifts. Further, a slight hissing in the midrange frequencies can occasionally occur. Additionally, as it is a front- and side-firing speaker, the Formation Wedges sound isnt evenly distributed at 360. This means the overall sound reproduction depends on the listeners position around the speaker, which impairs the devices performance in situations like a friendly gathering or a party. Finally, although the speaker receives a fairly good score in our outdoor scenario, beware not to expose it to water or dust, because  it isnt IP certified.

The DXOMARK Speaker overall score of 160 for the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge is derived from a range of sub-scores. In this section, we will take a closer look at these audio quality sub-scores and explain what they mean for the user, and we will show some comparison data from two of the Formation Wedges principal competitors, the Cabasse The Pearl Akoya and the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance.

DXOMARK timbre tests measure how well a speaker reproduces sound across the audible tonal range and takes into account bass, midrange, treble, tonal balance, and volume dependency.

The Formation Wedges Speaker review is off to a strong start with an excellent timbre performance. While the tuning is not neutral (bass and low-mids are slightly recessed), the overall result remains very pleasant, with a bright tonal balance and good low-end extension. High-end extension is also very good, with precise upper mids and treble.

The only characteristic that lowers the Formation Wedges Timbre sub-score is its volume dependency. At maximum volume, while treble remains consistent, midrange frequencies become aggressive, and the lack of bass is accentuated. Further, slight hissing occasionally occurs. On the other hand, at low volumes, treble is particularly recessed, and midrange becomes imprecise.

Our dynamics tests measure how well a device reproduces the energy level of a sound source, taking into account attack, bass precision, and punch.

Our spatial tests measure a speakers ability to reproduce stereo sound in all directions, taking into account localizability, balance, wideness, distance, and directivity. Please note that wideness is 0 for mono speakers and for speakers that cannot deliver a significant stereo effect.

The Formation Wedge delivers a solid spatial performance. As promised, the stereo sound field is particularly wide, considering the devices size, and thanks to treble clarity, localizability is very precise.

Directivity (the devices ability to evenly distribute sound at 360) is only average, due to its front- and side-firing architecture. In other words, the sound reproduction varies depending on the listeners position around the speaker. Luckily, the Wedges design makes it fit to be placed in a corner.

Further, the slight lack of low-mids impairs the distance rendering: sources can occasionally be perceived as farther away than they are. Finally, the left/right balance tends to be somewhat shifted to the left when watching movies.

Our volume tests measure both the maximum loudness a speaker is able to produce and how smoothly volume increases and decreases based on user input.

The Formation Wedge is one of the loudest speakers weve tested to date, thus able to deliver very satisfactory volumes even for a party or for outdoor use. However, as mentioned in the timbre paragraph, the frequency response isnt as extended at maximum volume as it can be at other listening levels. Minimum volume isnt appropriately tuned either: intelligibility is impaired by imprecise midrange and recessed treble, and volume steps arent as regularly distributed as they are at other volumes.

Here are a few sound pressure levels (SPL) measured when playing our sample recordings of hip-hop and classical music at maximum volume:

Our artifacts tests measure how much source audio is distorted when played back, along with such other sound artifacts as noise, pumping effects, and clipping. Distortion and other artifacts can occur both because of sound processing and because of the quality of the speakers.

The Formation Wedge excels at controlling sonic artifacts, whether spectral (distortion) or temporal (compression). There are almost no perceivable artifacts, except for occasional hissing on upper midrange, and slight bass distortion, both occurring at loud listening volumes.

Otherwise, the speaker delivers an objectively flawless spectral artifacts performance, with the bestTHD+N(Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise) weve measured so far. Additionally, it ensures good wireless audio/video synchronization over the AirPlay 2 protocol.

The Formation Wedge is a fierce competitor in the premium wireless speaker market, thanks to its great timbre and dynamics performance, its sharp attack, precise bass, good loudness, and excellent localizability and wideness, along with its impressive ability to keep sonic artifacts to a minimum. In fewer words, it achieves what it sets out to do, providing powerful, immersive sound.

One notable area in which the Formation Wedge still has room for improvement is the tonal balances propensity to vary according to the listening volume. Otherwise, the successor to the iconic Zeppelin Wireless is well suited for all kinds of scenarios, from relaxing at home, listening to music, or watching movies, all the way up to partying. In that last case, since the speaker isnt omnidirectional, placing it in a corner is the best option. With deep low-end extension and clear high-ends, it delivers a distinctive signature sound; whether youll like it or not is a matter of taste.

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